Sometimes, you don’t just want brunch in Rome. You want American brunch in Rome. You know. Pancakes. Eggs. Bagels. Filter coffee.
That can be pretty tough.
Finding brunch in Rome isn’t the part that’s hard. Like cupcakes and cocktails, brunch is what all the cool kids in Rome are doing (or consuming) these days.
And, like cupcakes and cocktails, even though some of the cool factor of brunch stems from it being a US import, it’s often not quuuuite done American-style. In fact, most Italian brunches offer up a spread that just like a noon-time aperitivo, with pastas, salads, meats, and cheeses. (And maybe some couscous or farro, if we’re getting really fancy).
But when you’re homesick hungry for American brunch, that just won’t do. Here are three places to head to instead: my three favorite spots for American brunch in Rome.
I'm not one to get easily sick of my steady diet of pizza, pasta, and wine — but even I admit that, sometimes, the expats and long-term travelers among us need just a little taste of home. Literally.
Below, some picks for the homesick.
American-style omelettes, and atmosphere, at Mamà's. Walk into this new restaurant/enoteca in Prati (below), and you almost feel like you've walked into a brunch place in, say, San Francisco: modern lines, chill atmosphere, and people typing away on their MacBooks (when there's anybody there). They've even got free newspapers and Wi-Fi.
Their menu is a mix of American and Italian; the American-style omelettes (above) are good, although a little greasy. Another American innovation? They're open all day long — from 8am to midnight — so you can grab lunch, partake in the 10-euro aperitivo, or have dinner, too. Via Sforza Pallavicini 19, near Castel Sant'Angelo.
English/Irish breakfast at the Abbey Theatre. Okay, one clarification: Abbey Theatre food is definitely not for the foodies among us. But, let's be honest, neither is a proper Irish breakfast. Here's where to come when you're just craving an oily sausage, fried egg, and beans on toast (below). (They've also got other U.K. faves here, like Irish stew and "chips"). Or when you just don't have the energy to order in Italian — once you step within these doors, a stone's throw from Piazza Navona, it's rare that you hear that fair language. P.S.: Abbey Theatre is really an Irish pub, so you can always come back for your Guinness fill. Via del Governo Vecchio 51, near Piazza Navona.
American-style salads and sandwiches at Fa-bio. It's Rome's (brand-new) answer to Chopt: At this hole-in-the-wall a stone's throw from the Vatican museums, you can make up your own huge salad out of a loooong list of ingredients. (And no, they don't nickle-and-dime you: Whatever you want is included in the price). If you're more in the mood for a sandwich, they'll make one of those up for you, too.
The ingredients are all organic, the prices great (you can leave with a whole lunch for about 6 euros). Oh, and they do smoothies. Just give yourself some time if you're coming at lunch hour: These salads are hand-made, so there can be a little bit of a line. If you squint your eyes, between the tiny space, the sound of the Americans around you, and the bustle, you can almost imagine you're in the West Village. Via Germanico 43, near the Vatican.
Huge cups of coffee, and muffins, at Vero Food. This place just opened a few months ago, and it's already making a major splash. They've got it all: American-style sweets (including cheesecake and cinnamon rolls), sushi and salads to go, and, getting some expats most excited of all, American drip coffee. The kind you can wander around the street with in a takeaway cup, sipping as you go until it gets cold, there's just so darn much. Via Marcantonio Colonna 30, in Prati.
Cupcakes — and pancakes — at Sweety's Rome. I've already sung the praises of cupcakes from Sweety's Rome once (above). As promised in that post, though, I did go back for Sunday brunch. It was good — if, at €18 per person, not the best deal in town — but the thing that really sold me? The pancakes. (The rest of the brunch is way more Italian than American, complete with an aperitivo-like buffet). They're light, fluffy, and you get the choice of chocolate or real maple syrup with them. If you go, make sure to make reservations ahead of time; there are only two seatings, at 12:30 and at 2pm. Call 06 48913713. Via Milano 48, in Monti.
Chicken wings at The Perfect Bun. Ah, The Perfect Bun (above). Here's where the waiters all speak English and where the menu tries, so very hard, to be American. It succeeds in appearance (hello, chicken fingers, didn't know you'd made it over to Rome!); in taste, kind of (the hamburgers: meh); in price, not at all (that "meh" hamburger? It starts at €13… and runs up to €25).
The chicken wings (below), though, are like a little taste of home. The place also serves brunch, and is open till 2am, so you can fix that U.S.A. craving at any time of the day or night. Largo del Teatro Valle 4, near Piazza Navona.
Bagels at The Perfect Bun's bakery. And guacamole. And more cupcakes. When Josephine's Bakery closed last year, I was bummed. But then The Perfect Bun's bakery moved in. And it's even better. They've got it all: cupcakes, yes, but also scones, muffins, wraps, and bagels. (Bagels! I can't tell you how excited I was to see that. Pictured below). They've even, newly, opened a grocery (!?!) with such American-style staples as ketchup, BBQ sauce, and peanut butter. The prices look way better (like, €3.50 instead of something-like-€8 peanut butter) than the other expat grocery, Castroni.
To top it off, I was told by a reliable, Californian source this morning that The Perfect Bun has guacamole. From the right kinds of avocados, for which they had to find their own supplier. And made fresh every day. Incredible. Piazza del Paradiso 56, near Piazza Navona.
Burgers and beer at Open Baladin. The burger's aren't quite like what you get back home… but close. They're juicy and yummy, the buns are thick and fresh, and they even come with ketchup. (Whoa!). The handmade potato chips are great, too, and you can get them with trendy add-ons, like powdered liquorice. Wash down your taste of Italy-does-Americana with one of Open Baladin's more-than-1oo artisanal beers… all of them Italian. Unsurprisingly, this place gets packed at night. Via degli Specchi 6, near Piazza Navona.
Betty Crocker cake mix, maple syrup, and other necessities at Castroni. Okay, it looks like The Perfect Bun's new grocery store boasts much better prices than Castroni. But until the Bun expands more, Castroni's still king when it comes to getting all those bits and bobs from home — whether home is the U.S., U.K., Mexico, or Japan. They've also got lots of locations, including two in Prati and one on Via Nazionale.
Buono appetito, expats! Any other places you've come upon that taste like home? Please share in the comments! (By the way, anyone else notice how Prati seems to be Rome's new "Little America"?).